Fun With Art

The kids like roaming around Beijing’s modern art scene. The Ai Wei Wei post was somber. This is the lighter side: going crazy at the art playground known as 798, on old factory train tracks, locomotive engines, working steam pipes, ramps, pieces you can climb.

798 is an amalgam… of commerce based on the creative industries, a symbol of China’s political opening, a showcase for individual creativity.

(798 is a set of 1950s, East  German-built Bauhaus radio tube factories now full of restaurants & radical-slogan-t-shirt shops as well as galleries and museums, anchored by the Ullens Contemporary Art Center. The factories peaked in the 1970s and failed in the ’90s, right at political opening. A sculptor of big outdoor pieces (Chen) and his artist wife (Wang) then set up a workshop in a furnace, & gradually added studios, offices, heat, publishing houses, exhibition space. By 2004, it got a ‘Protect Heritage’ law.

Last time here, spotted huge John & Yoko mural. This time, an old poster of Israeli Amos Gitai.

Cartoonist/caricaturist/children’s illustrator Zhang Guangyu, the pop hero whose name no one knew, was subject of a warehouse-size, first-ever show we loved. He drew China’s incredibly well-known “Monkey King” (folkloric) tv show, unbeknownst to most people.

(“Monkey King” cells now for sale, $10.) Earlier in life, Zhang was a revolutionary artist, “a culture laborer” as he said, making posters and murals for factories, printing newspapers & leaflets, and drawing a million political cartoons. A Peter Max/Lichtenstein/Shel Silverstein/Disney animator/Dr. Seuss/Gary Trudeau/etc rolled into one. Now at 798, his pop art is being recognized for the a influential, pioneering work it is.

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